the flowering of japan in van gogh's heart
For two centuries, Japan discouraged trade with the rest of the world. In the 1850s, however, the country finally bowed to outside pressure and opened its ports to foreign vessels and Western commercial interests. Japanese prints, lacquerware, and porcelains flooded into Europe, creating a craze for furniture and crafts of Japanese design.
European artists were eager to abandon the staid conventions of academic art, and they freely imitated the bold, pure color, assertive outlines, and cropped compositions of Japanese prints. Japanese art created an indelible impression on Van Gogh.
He, like many of his colleagues, avidly collected woodblock prints: "We like Japanese painting, we are influenced by it-all Impressionists have that in common."1
The nineteenth-century woodblock print by Keisai Eisen depicting a high-ranking courtesan (oiran) was reproduced in reverse on the cover of Paris Illustré, in a special edition entitled "Le Japon" (May 1886).
When Van Gogh saw the magazine, he made a tracing of the cover incorporating a grid that he later transferred in enlarged form to canvas. 2
[this is the same method he used when making the other above copies]
and this is van gogh's friend whom he called pere tanguy. he was an art supply dealer.
i would love to find the originals for all of the prints shown behind him (in both versions), as well as in the few additional prints in which he featured them, but so far no luck.
(previous coverage here)